TSA gears up for smart-card pilot

The Transportation Security Administration has drafted a Reston, Va., company to help it develop smart cards that will serve as identification cards for port, airport, railway and other transportation employees.

TSA chose Maximus Inc. for a $3.8 million contract to test components for its Transportation Worker Identification Credential program. The agency will run a pilot this fall in two areas: Philadelphia-Wilmington, Del., and Long Beach, Calif.-Los Angeles.

The cards will 'plug the holes' caused by employees with 'dubious backgrounds,' said TSA's administrator, retired Coast Guard Adm. James M. Loy, in a statement. A universal smart-card system will keep 'us one step ahead of the terrorists,' he said.

In preliminary plans, TSA identified six types of technologies and six potential entry locations at transportation facilities. Some technologies being considered for inclusion on the cards are magnetic stripes, 2-D bar codes and biometrics.

The smart-card system's nationwide rollout will likely begin next year and ultimately affect 12 million transportation workers. TSA officials said the program must meet three goals: privacy, security and commerce.

Under the Maximus contract, the development and testing phase will also tap several subcontractors, including Actcom Inc. of Virginia Beach, Va.; ActivCard Corp. of Fremont, Calif.; Data Trac/SEI Technology Inc. of Harrisonburg, Va.; EDS Corp.; and Information Spectrum Inc. of Annandale, Va.

The program is behind schedule because TSA took longer than originally planned to assess pilot sites and choose entry points. But the smart cards are a priority and the program is 'still going to go forward' despite an overall agency budget shortfall, CIO Patrick Schambach said last month (Click here for recent GCN coverage)

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